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Visitation

This post is a little weird. It comes at the end of a spectacularly shitty week. At first I wasn’t even going to write one, but it is Friday evening and I thought why not? It’s mostly incomplete sentences and almost random images. It is a little strange and a new thing for me to do.  I am not sure it works.

Arms raised. Turn. Turn the other way. Look up. Look down.
 
Gentle fingers probe a soft, flabby stomach, move up to bare, sagging breasts.
 
Avoid the large protrusion on the bottom left joint. Wipe off yellow pus and red blood.
 
Get up, dress in a hospital gown and clutch the back with one hand. Lie down on a hospital bed. Get wheeled to a room.
 
Smell disinfectant. Finger is pricked. Swallow pills. Watch blood fill three little tubes.
 
Sign forms. Dress again in normal clothes. Leave.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

I got Half a King by Joe Abercrombie from NetGalley. There are some errors in the copy, but it’s an ARC and they’ll probably be fixed by time it’s published.

I found out that Half a King was a YA novel only a few chapters into the book. The main character is young, but I wouldn’t have twigged to its YA status if I hadn’t read it online. I will try not to spoil anyone. ;)

Back page summary from Amazon: 

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
 
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
 
The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
 
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
 
Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

 
I really like that line: I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath. It has a ring to it.

The main character, Prince Yarvi, is born crippled in a world that values only strength in its kings. One badly formed arm makes him a cripple, a half a man.

I have to ask: when was the last time you had a main character that was crippled from the get-go? Me, I can’t remember.

So, born unable to wield a weapon, Yarvi trains to become a minister. But his father and brothers are killed so he has to take the throne. He promptly declares war on those who killed his family. He is betrayed just as quickly. Then he vows to take back a throne he never really wants.

There is war and betrayal, all of it driven by politics.

But for all that Half a King isn’t a bleak book. Gritty, yes, but not bleak. I was expecting bleak; other Joe Abercrombie books are bleak. Perhaps that’s the YA effect. I am grateful; bleak books are so hard to read.

After the betrayal, Yarvi lives in harsh conditions. But he lives, and that’s more than his betrayer intended. He finds friends and companions that carry him to the end. His friends are all from different lands, different stations in life before they ended up together. They are all interesting, especially the one named Nothing.

My favorite part: the end.

The ending is a series of scenes, each dealing with a different character. Some of it I guessed from previous events. One part of the end, the most important part, I never guessed. It involved the betrayal of a character that I thought was trustworthy, that I thought fit into another role in the story. No. It was fantastic.

To reiterate: that one scene makes this book a standout. I will always remember that end. Always! It was perfect. Completely unexpected, but perfectly sensible, too.

My least favorite part: the middle.

This has less to do with sagginess in the middle – it has none! It is very sharp and tight in the middle! – and more to do because I thought briefly Yarvi himself was betraying everyone. It didn’t work out that way and I am glad. I was inspired to skim the end to reassure myself Yarvi was a character that I should root for. This, no doubt, is evidence of good storytelling.

Things I would like to know: more about the world.

The focus of Half a King is on Yarvi. That’s fine; he is the main character. But the companions are from other lands, and judging from them, the other lands are different. I am not even sure about the relationship between the other lands to Yarvi’s land. None of that is important to the story so it wasn’t included. But I still want to know.

I really, really liked Half a King and I am looking forward to the next one.

Pilfering Youth

Tell me what you think about this story? Is it confusing?

Eyebrows arched high, blue eyes wide and carefully made up to hide the first signs of wrinkles, Ashara posed in front of the crowd. Colorful fabric streamed behind her, a parody of the flags ringing the stadium. Cameras flashed, but the applause was polite.

She turned on her six-inch heels and stalked back across the stage. Her hair swept down her back in long, loose waves; it excited more comment than the flower-print folds of her dress.

Her heels left faint gold marks on the wooden boards, but no one noticed.

The next model was a slim, dark figure in white wedges, a shimmering black crop top and ivory pants. She strode over her predecessor’s footsteps.

The crowd roared and cameras flashed enough to blind anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in the glare. The model kept turning, kept moving. She was rumored to take Ashara’s place as the next top model.

A hush came over the crowd when she stumbled and went down hard. One of the stage crew helped her off.

Ashara came back in a number designed to show off a svelte body, all smooth lines and shining fabric. Whispers flowed like water at her appearance. She looked as if she had lost a decade in the ten minutes she had been off stage.

L is for Lies

L-12A couple years ago, while randomly browsing the internet, Iran across this title: Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. (His books are good.)

It’s a book on writing and the title got me thinking. I never picked up the book, but the title stuck in my head.

A story is made up, a piece of fiction. It doesn’t exist. That, on one level, makes it a lie.Lies

But! Everyone knows a story can’t be real. Not everyone knows such a thing of other, more normal lies.

On the other hand, a story must have emotional / psychological truths. How would anyone relate to a character otherwise? And it must have at least some factual truths, else someone will cry: bad research!

The best lies are supposed to have truth, so that doesn’t mean the story can’t be called a lie. Even so, I cannot quite convince myself I write lies. Perhaps it would he easier if the word didn’t have negative meanings.

What do you think? Is aIl fiction some bizarre form of lying?

Has anyone read the book? Does it offer an explanation? Maybe the title is just an example of someone’s expertise at title creation something eye-catching and memorable.

Friday Flash: Red Sun

“Boss, boss, wait up!”

She continued walking, heels clicking on the sidewalk.

Squeak ran to catch up. “C’mon. Don’t be like that. I only meant you should -”

She stopped and whirled on him. “I will not now or ever offer my blood to any sanguisuge. I’ll hear no more of this, do you understand, Squeak?”

“Loud and clear, ma’am.” He sounded tired. “But we have to offer them something.”

“Filthy creatures,” she muttered. “Leave it to me, Squeak.”

He nodded his brown head. “Yes, boss.” He turned and walked down the block to the office. He closed up tonight.

She watched the glazed glass office door shut behind him. Even a block away, the words still caught and reflected the dying sun: Red Sun Magician: Custom Spells, Incantations and Enchantments.

Red Sun was her baby. Her dream, ever since she had come home from school to the sight the family store on fire. Both her parents died in the fire. Now the sanguisuges threatened to burn her down if she didn’t give them blood or an equal amount of money.

They believed they could intimidate her, a university trained magician. They were wrong.

She turned, pulled her pink fleece cap a little lower and walked briskly home.

Friday Flash: Escape

This isn’t quite what I hoped it would be, but it’s done now. :)

 

City lights gleamed in the distance. They were pinpricks of   life, of hope.

He automatically searched out the building with the spire made of stacked metal gargoyle skulls. Even obscured by wet and fog, it was beautiful. His family lived there, walked and worked in its rooms. He’d spent the best part of childhood there.

His lover’s home was a couple dozen blocks past it. He’d thought it was his home, too. He was wrong.

“Come on.”

He looked over his shoulder at his friend. His friend’s dark clothing was wet from the rain and his hair was slicked back. But his gaze held only rough sympathy.

“You knew it would end,” his friend stated.

He nodded. He knew. It still hurt. He took a deep breath of the cool, rain-scented air. “Time to go.”

The both walked to the edge. He placed his hands on the wet railing and looked down. The river below was dark and the waters roiled in the storm.

A small boat bobbed in the water. It was barely visible. He swung his legs over the railing and jumped.

The splash he made was lost in the storm’s fury. The water was numbingly cold. A moment later, his friend dropped beside him.

They looked at each other, than started swimming.

 

Friday Flash: The Goglet

Helen provided a prompt: write a 100 word story using the words cylinder, goglet and liberate.

I managed to use all three words, but I am afraid I could not quite figure out how to turn it into a 100 word story. :(

The goglet took shape under her careful, gnarled fingers. The thick cylinder of clay grew in the pottery wheel. Its long, sensuous curves would attract drinkers like spilled honey drew vermin.

Her daughter decorated it with a fine black glaze. Frolicking shepherdesses, lonesome maids, wide open petals. It was enough to rivet any man’s gaze.

They placed it in the shop. Many men stopped and stared. They encouraged special orders from them.

The particular man walked into the shop again. They were quite happy to sell it to him.

He drank the liberating wine from it. He slept deeply that night and did not wake.

His paramour was delighted. She slipped into the night, taking the goglet with her, to give to her brother. He did not wake the next night either.